‘It’s up to you to become friends with him with your body language’
Frankie Dettori rode 14 mounts in the world’s greatest flat race before finally triumphing on Authorized, winning the Investec Derby in 2007. How do a horse and jockey form the partnership that will take them to victory?
Speak the same language
“The horse feels what you feel – he feels your body language. I try to surround myself with good energy, good people. I try to start the day on a positive note, because what I feel goes through my arms and influences the animal. It’s up to you to become friends with him with your body language so he can slow down and speed up as you want him to.”
Build the partnership over time
“Six weeks prior to the race, you’re building a rapport with the horse. You’re getting to know the horse as it’s developing. Physically and mentally they’re always growing, so you try to get that rapport, but some horses get to a point where they don’t improve. Some horses do, so you try to find the one that will get you to the Derby while it’s on an upward curve.”
Try to peak together
“The two times I won the Derby, I knew that the horse I had was capable of doing it. But until you actually do it, you don’t know. When I rode Cracksman in 2017, I thought he could pass every test but maybe the Derby came too early for him. Physically he couldn’t keep up with the pressure of the Derby, and he wasn’t ready to win it. He came third, but if the race had been two months later he’d have won.”
Prepare for the unique challenges of the course
“Even if you think you have the right horse, sometimes the timing or the physical or mental state of the horse might not be ready. Epsom is a very peculiar course – the climb in the first five furlongs, running downhill on the camber, and the distance – and it will find a chink in the horse’s armour if it’s not good enough. Horses have to adapt and be able to listen. The weak get caught out and drop back and the best come through.”
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